May 31, 2012 at 4:56 pm
A federal judge Thursday struck down a provision in Florida’s controversial election law requiring third-party groups to turn in voter registration forms within 48 hours. Tallahassee federal Judge Robert Hinkle blocked enforcement of the 48-hour deadline, calling it “harsh and impractical.”
“Allowing responsible organizations to conduct voter-registration drives—thus making it easier for citizens to register and vote—promotes democracy,” Hinkle said in the ruling,
The restriction was enacted by Florida legislators last year as part of H.B. 1355, a broad election law that reduces the number of days for early voting, eliminates the ability for voters to change their address at voting stations, and creates new administrative requirements for third-party civic groups that seek to organize voter registration drives.
A coalition of groups – including the League of Women Voters, Rock the Vote and Florida Public Interest Research Group- have been challenging the law’s provisions in court, saying the restrictions make it more difficult to conduct voter registration drives.
Hinkle left intact much of the rest of the law, portions of which are also being challenged in federal court in Washington.
Democrats called the ruling a victory, while Republicans pointed to the fact that the majority of the law was upheld.
“Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Republican’s have led an unprecedented assault on voting rights – a basic right of all Americans – and it must stop. Today’s decision is a victory for the people of Florida and a defeat to the extremist GOP leadership in Tallahassee,” Florida Democratic Party chair Rod Smith said in a statement.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said he was glad to see the ruling, noting the “law clearly was designed to stop people from voting.”
“Based on initial reports about the ruling, we are pleased that the majority of the law was upheld, as these are common sense procedures that will help protect the integrity of Florida’s elections,” Florida Republican Party chair Lenny Curry said. “This law ensures that third party voter registration groups are held accountable and that citizens are registered in a timely and proper manner. However, we are disappointed that the modest requirement of a 48-hour turnaround for registration applications was rejected. This would guarantee that new voters know with certainty they have joined millions of legal voters in being able to participate in our great democratic process. RPOF will continue to monitor the progress of this new law, and–as always–we will support efforts to ensure that every legal voter in Florida is allowed to cast their ballot and have it accurately counted.”